As you harvest seeds from plants like lettuce, peas, and broccoli this time of year, bear in mind that you are technically picking fruit, even if it may not be the kind of fruit you typically eat. All of the seeds in the seed library’s collection come from angiosperms, or flowering plants; all of which produce fruits. Fruits don’t have to be large and juicy. They can be small, dry, and inconspicuous. Here are some things to know about the fruits of your fall- or winter-sown seed plants:
➤Arugula fruit – Silique This fruit looks like a tiny bean pod. “Silique” is from a Latin word for pod or husk. A silique splits open when it is mature and releases its contents. So, if you wait too long to harvest arugula seeds, there will be none left to harvest.
➤Broccoli fruit – Silique Broccoli has the same type of fruit as arugula, and so do other members of the plant family Brassicaceae (the mustard family.) Carefully pry open a broccoli silique, and you will find a row of seeds inside, like peas in a pod.
➤Cilantro fruit – Schizocarp Cilantro is in the plant family Apiaceae (the carrot family). These plants produce fruits called schizocarps (“split fruits”.) Each fruit is divided into two segments, with one seed per segment. When the fruit is mature, the segments split apart and are separated by the wind.
Like pea pods, cilantro fruits are often harvested and eaten by people. They are called coriander. If you have any coriander in your kitchen, try splitting one of these dry fruits open and you will find two seeds inside. You can even try planting them to grow some more cilantro.
➤Lettuce fruit – Cypsela Each lettuce fruit, or cypsela, comes with its own umbrella; actually a pappus, or tuft of hairs, to help it float on the wind. This type of fruit has only one seed inside. If this structure reminds you of a dandelion seed (or, rather, fruit,) then you are on to something. Lettuce and dandelions are related. They are both in the daisy family, Asteraceae.
➤Parsley fruit – Schizocarp Parsley is in the carrot family (Apiaceae), like cilantro. You have probably noticed parsley and cilantro have similar leaves. Their fruits resemble each other, as well. Both fruits are schizocarps.
➤Pea fruit – Legume Among the fruits listed here, the pea pod is probably the one you are most familiar with. The next time you eat a snap or snow pea, take a moment to notice the lines along the pod. This is where the pod would have split open to release its seeds if the pod had not been picked.
➤Radish fruit – Silique Radish fruits are a little different structurally than the other two Brassicaceae or mustard family fruits listed here, arugula and broccoli fruits. Like arugula and broccoli plants, radish plants produce siliques, but radish siliques don’t have predefined lines where they split open. You can see for yourself by examining a radish silique. You won’t find any lines. After examining the silique, you can eat it, if it is not too mature. The siliques are delicious, reminiscent of radishes in flavor and texture. Instead of splitting apart lengthwise when they reach maturity, these pods tend to break apart at each joint between seed segments.
With the strong spring winds blowing outside, this is a good time for these plants to be setting fruit and releasing their seeds. If you were not there to harvest the seeds, then many of them would be carried away by the winds and would land far from their mother plants. This dispersal method improves the plants’ odds of successfully reproducing for generations to come. Of course, you can help with this, too, by harvesting and saving the seeds.
1 “Eruca sativa” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruca_sativa
2 “Eruca” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruca
3 “Brassicaceae” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassicaceae
4 “Broccoli” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broccoli
5 “Brassica oleracea” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica_oleracea
6 “Coriander” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriander
7 “Apiaceae,” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apiaceae
8 “Petroselinum” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroselinum
9 “Parsley” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsley
10 “Asterales” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asterales
11 “Asteraceae” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae
12 “Lactuca” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactuca
13 “Lettuce” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lettuce
14 “Fabaceae” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabaceae
15 “Pisum” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisum
16 “Pea” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pea
17 “Raphanus” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphanus
18 “Radish” article, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radish
19 “Brassicaceae” page, Biology 343 course blog. University of British Columbia website. http://blogs.ubc.ca/biol343/brassicaceae/